Lots of thoughtful folks are aware of the brokenness of the foster care system and eager to make a difference—but not necessarily as foster parents. While not everyone is in a season of life to provide foster care, I’ve discovered that there are many ways to be involved with foster care that don’t require the commitment of foster parenting. Here are three of them:
Do laundry for kids who are living in hotels or moving frequently. I was at Foster Support Faith Alliance meeting last year when one of the leaders asked one of the social workers present if there were any immediate needs she and her colleagues had. After thinking for a moment, the social worker said something like, “Actually, I have some laundry that needs doing!”
My ears perked up. As a mother of four (sometimes five) children, I do a lot of laundry. I quickly gave the social worker my number and later that day, I had her (or rather, her teenage client’s) dirty laundry in my minivan.
Over the past year, that social worker has texted me a handful of times. When kids are moving a lot, or staying in a motel or in the DCYF office due to the terrible shortage of foster homes, their laundry piles up. Doing laundry becomes one more task that falls to the child’s case manager, which means social workers end up bringing their young clients’ clothes home to wash during their off-hours.
One way to help kids in foster care is to offer to do their laundry! Contact your local DCYF office and let them know you’re available. It won’t be long before you receive your first request!
Become an Office Mom or Dad. Did you know that when a child is picked up by CPS, they often spend their first few hours or even days in foster care sitting in a social worker’s office? Finding a foster home for them can be very challenging and can take a few days (or longer). Meanwhile, the kids are sitting in offices scared, confused and freaking out (on the inside, if not on the outside).
Office Moms & Dads is a nonprofit organization comprised of qualified volunteers partnering with child welfare offices to provide a nurturing environment for children entering foster care. Volunteers in this program hang out with children new to care while they wait for a foster home placement. They play with them, talk with them, and offer a compassionate presence to kids new to care. Visit their web site to learn how to get involved!
Hire Foster Youth/Former Foster Youth. Do you hire people for your business? Consider sourcing talent from organizations that work with foster youth, like Treehouse, or list your job opportunities with Foster Coalition’s list of Companies That Hire Current and Former Foster Youth.
Former foster youth Christina Meredith did not mince words her new book CinderGirl. “Once you age out of the system, it means becoming an adult long before your peers, even if you’re still in high school. While other kids your age are obsessing about dating, summer vacation, or what college to attend, you’re working a second shift at Denny’s, covered in days-old ketchup because you don’t have access to a washer or dryer. …when you get your paycheck, you have to decide whether to pay your rent, buy groceries at Walmart, or save money for a taxi to get to school so you can graduate.”
Foster youth and former foster youth need employment immediately upon aging out of the system (or before). If you are in a position to hire, why not be intentional about hiring one of them?
Even if you can’t be a foster parent right now, there are ways you can support youth in foster care (or those who have aged out). I’ve shared three here—what would you add?